Jeffrey H. Anderson and Jay Cost have a lengthy and interesting National Affairs article on reforming the Republican nominating process. I think their institutional analysis is worthwhile (though I am not entirely convinced), but some of the problems of the Republican nominating process are only partially institutional. The institutions would function better absent a toxic (and self-defeating) culture among Republican campaign consultants and presidential candidate.

Bobby Jindal has been getting a lot of flak for this op-ed. Look at Bobby Jindal’s background. Watch some of Bobby Jindal’s most recent state of the state speech. Now a selection from the op-ed:

At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don’t know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon.

Why?

Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don’t have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don’t matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

Their philosophy does not work and it got our nation into the mess it’s in.

Eventually Americans will rise up against this new era of big government and this new reign of politically correct terror. In the meantime Republicans — hold fast, get smarter, get disciplined, get on offense, and put on your big boy pants.


The biggest problem isn’t the vacuity. The problem is the phoniness. The op-ed doesn’t sound like Jindal. It doesn’t sound like any real person. The op-ed reads like some consultant stitched together bits of a dozen half-remembered talk radio rants. It is reminiscent of Tim Pawlenty’s CPAC speech where he exhorted the audience to be like Tiger Woods’ wife and “take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government.” Nothing gets the crowd going like some domestic violence humor (actually it bombed.) Avik Roy wonders if the op-ed is a way of moving beyond the perception that Jindal is a nerd. I’m not sure that’s it. Pawlenty wasn’t a nerdy guy.

The problem is that the Republican consultants and their clients are convinced that Republican presidential primary voters are hostile morons. That’s why we get a two term governor of Minnesota cheering on his audience to take inspiration from an act of domestic violence. That’s why Jindal felt the need to publish (let us home not write) an op-ed where he hides every bit of his intelligence. Republican consultants and presidential aspirants have internalized the left’s hostile caricature of Republican voters.

The irony is that Republican presidential primary voters are much more responsible than most seem to think. Romney had plenty of ideological problems, but he had clearly prepared to be president. The primary voters gave him credit for that. Rick Santorum was not the most articulate or best funded, but he had principles and did his homework. The voters rewarded him. It says a great deal about the Republican primary voters that they settled on the candidates who showed them the most respect.

Anderson and Cost write about the “low information voters” who have little stake in the Republican party and who are swayed by  last minute advertisements. The problem is that, at the beginning of the nominating process, almost all of us are low information voters. It is as the process unfolds that we learn things about the candidates and form supportable opinions. If anything, the process works in the exact opposite way described by Anderson and Cost. Stunt candidates like Cain and Bachmann (and unofficial stunt candidates like Donald Trump) did best in the polls before anyone was casting ballots in delegate selecting contests. When people showed up to vote, they tended to vote for the best candidates.

That is because, early in the race, we aren’t even low information voters. We are low information nonvoters. We are responding to little or no information in a seemingly no-consequence environment. But there are consequences. The Tim Pawlentys of the world panic when they see Bachmann jumping out to an early lead. That is because they Pawlentys and the Jindals aren’t trusting the voters to see through the joke candidates and reward qualified candidates making solid arguments - even though experience tells us that the Republican primary voters will do just that. The Republican political class should show more respect for their voters.  It would work out better for both groups.

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